Using the Experience machine as a thought experiment, Robert Nozick argues that some of us will choose not to plug in the machine because there are things more important to us than what we feel inside. For example:

  1. We want to do things not just have the experience of doing them.
  2. We want to be a certain kind of person.
  3. Plugging in the machine limits us to a man-made reality.
  4. When a person is connected to the experience machine, the concept of free will becomes murky.

These reasons for not plugging in the experience machine shows that we are concerned not just how our time is filled but also with what we are. We want to have deeper significance (i.e., meaning). We choose not to plug in because something other than experience matters to us (Happiness is not the same as meaning).

This thought experiment attempts to refute Hedonism or the idea that happiness is the ultimate good by making us choose between a simulated reality and real life. As the experiment shows, there are things that increases a person’s well-being beyond happiness, which makes hedonism false. If hedonism was true then we would not hesitate plugging into this machine.

In scott barry kaufman’s revision of Maslow’s heirarchy of needs, he argues that the highest mental state a human can achieve is transcendence. In transcendence, happiness can be sacrificed for the sake of a more meaningful existence with oneself and with others.